Nothing but pride at stake for New Zealand
There is nothing but pride left for New Zealand but Shane Bond, the New Zealand fast bowler, isn't ready to throw in the towel yet. Speaking to The New Zealand Herald, Bond said: "The most disappointing thing is that it could have been 3-0 the other way. There's nothing in it, and 3-0 is maybe not a fair reflection of how the series has gone. Their lower order - Justin Kemp, Shaun Pollock, those sorts of guys - have come in and played well at key moments. And when the teams are so close, that's all it's going to take to swing the game."
Kemp has twice swung South Africa to victory from tight situations, earning grudging admiration from Lou Vincent, the New Zealand batsman. "He's an annoying bastard. In fact, a couple of guys in that South African team have been a pain in the arse."
But, despite the reverses in the series, Vincent didn't think the side had slided. "We definitely haven't gone backwards, but we just haven't nailed that last 1%. We've got to finish off the small things, we've been losing in the last couple of overs."
Nathan Astle, who will earn his 200th ODI cap at the Durban match, remained focused on the task at hand - avoiding the whitewash. "I'm not a big milestones man, you forget all that and get on with trying to get a win on the board, because we don't want to leave here losing 5-0. If we got a good start, maybe losing just one or two wickets in the first 15 overs, we'll be in the game more."
John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, blamed the series-loss to the run-drought at the top of the order. "Bottom line is we just haven't scored enough runs at the top of the order. We have made some bad errors in each of the matches and have no grizzles about what happened. But had we played well it could so easily have been 2-1 to us." Bracewell has been working with Astle, who has averaged just 5 in the series and has been caught behind the wicket three times, trying to make him play front of the wicket."We have been working quite hard on Nathan to change his V to forward of the wicket than behind it. I think he has started to make some progress."
Citing Astle's century against India four matches ago, Bracewell rubbished claims that Astle, despite being the senior-most player in the team at 34, is on a decline. Speaking to stuff.co.nz, he said, "He's an extremely gifted athlete and he works very hard on his fitness which is something he probably didn't do in his youth. He is making those sacrifices to keep himself young enough to play. I don't see age as a barrier because he is still quick, runs hard and judges a good ball in the outfield. He has good hands and a degree of flexibility where he can field. Experience is a handy commodity."
On Hamish Marshall's fallow run with the bat, Bracewell was less definitive. "When he's back home everything is fine. He was batsman of the year and batted outstandingly well against Australia and Sri Lanka. But he's struggled in the past three tours to Bangladesh [last season], Zimbabwe and now here."